Intended for healthcare professionals


Passive smoking and children

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 24 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1680
  1. Roberta Ferrence, executive director
  1. 1Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 33 Russell St, Toronto, Canada M5S 2S1
  1. roberta_ferrence{at}

    Full protection is needed urgently

    On the 24 March, the tobacco advisory group of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in England published its report on passive smoking and children. The report details the effects of exposure to secondhand smoke in children and includes a chapter on associated costs, a consideration of ethical problems, and a review of potential strategies to tackle the problem.1

    The report attests to the substantial expansion of research on the health effects of passive smoking and the measurement of harmful exposure.1 We now know that no level of exposure is safe; that exposure to passive smoke in childhood is strongly associated with a range of respiratory effects and serious diseases, including sudden infant death syndrome; and that exposure is a likely cause of brain tumours, leukaemia, and meningitis in children.1 2 3 However, the report excludes established late effects of in utero, childhood, and adolescent exposure including reductions in the fertility of female offspring,4 and breast cancer in premenopausal adult women.2 5 In fact, evidence is mounting that non-smokers exposed as children are at risk of a range of adult …

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